Masked School Kids

Masked children enter the Forestdale School in Sandwich

The Sandwich School Committee has made a fourth plea to state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley for more transparency regarding the pandemic-related protocols imposed upon schools in the state.

Though the school committee has not received a satisfactory response from the state, Commissioner Riley did announce this week that the mask advisory in schools has been extended through the month of February. Schools with vaccination rates of at least 80 percent are still able to lift the mandate for vaccinated staff and students.

After three requests for information, the commissioner wrote back to the school board on December 10. However, the board criticized the response as not actually answering any of its questions.

In the letter to the commissioner, the board cites a memo dated July 30, 2021, that lifted all COVID-19 protocols, saying that the risk of the virus to children is small. A month later, with no new data or research, the commissioner implemented a mask mandate at all schools in the state.

The response from the commissioner on December 10 included the August 2021 memo, but still did not provide any new research or information that would have necessitated a shift in protocols.

“Thus, our question remains,” the school committee’s fourth letter reads. “What new data, studies, and references did DESE become aware of and rely on after July 30, 2021, that led to the request to the DESE Board for the authority to reinstate a mask mandate?”

The letter states that students are asked to “show their work,” which is what the school board is asking the commissioner to do.

“As a committee, we look forward to further information via an update to our request for transparency no later than January 19, 2022,” the letter says.

The board has not discussed what will happen after that date.

Members of the board voted unanimously to send the letter to Commissioner Riley.

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